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ND Women’s Basketball: Hitting the road

Kelsey Manning | Monday, February 6, 2012

As No. 2 Notre Dame takes on Syracuse tonight, the focus will be on one aspect of the game the Irish have struggled with all season — rebounding.

The Orange (15-9, 4-6 Big East) are tied with No. 1 Baylor — the team that handed Notre Dame its first and only loss this season — for second in the NCAA in rebounds per game with 47.7. They also lead the Big East in both rebounds per game and offensive boards per game with 21.3, and boast four of the top 20 rebounders in the league.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw said she is concerned about Syracuse’s proficiency on the boards, especially after her team recorded just 31 total rebounds in its 90-70 victory over DePaul on Sunday.

“We’re really worried about [rebounding] because we did not rebound well in the last game against DePaul and rebounding has not been one of our strengths, so that is number one on our list of keys for the game,” she said. “That is something we really need to concentrate on.”

Meanwhile, the Orange are coming off a two-game winning streak, topping Providence and South Florida. Senior forward Iasia Hemingway recorded back-to-back 24-point performances in the two contests, which earned her Big East Player of the Week. McGraw said she will experiment with different defensive approaches to face the versatile forward.

“I think we’re going to put a couple of different people on her, try a couple different looks,” she said. “She is Big East Player of the Week; she’s a very good player. I think we’re going to have to mix up who guards her and try different people on different sides because she likes both sides.”

Notre Dame (23-1, 10-0 Big East) holds a 24-2 all-time record against Syracuse, and has won the previous 12 meetings. However, in 2001 Syracuse recorded an 84-79 victory over the Irish in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. In their matchup last season, the then-No.8 ranked Irish bested the Orange 71-48 at Purcell Pavilion.

Despite playing on the road this time around, McGraw said her team is relatively unaffected by negative environments.

“I think every team plays better at home, but we have really played well in hostile environments,” she said. “I think we don’t let things bother us. I think that’s because we’re a very mature team, we have good leadership, and I don’t think they let anything bother them.”

Both teams are fighting to maintain their Big East standings, with Notre Dame leading the conference and Syracuse in tenth place. McGraw said the game will be a battle.

“It’s a big game for Syracuse, because they’re fighting for position,” she said. “And so are we, so I think it’s an important game for both teams.”

The Irish tip off against the Orange tonight at the Carrier Dome at 7 p.m.


Contact Kelsey Manning at kmannin3@nd.edu